The Gay Science

Nietzsche's Morality: False Principles and Premises

In The Gay Science, Friedrich Nietzsche advocates skepticism and rejection of many traditional beliefs and values. This dismissal of commonly accepted societal norms is evident in his attack on morality and virtue in section 21 of the book. In this section, Nietzsche argues that the motives of morality stand in opposition to the principles of morality. In Nietzsche’s mind, the virtues that make up morality -- virtues like industriousness, selflessness, and obedience -- are self-destructive and accepted as virtuous for their utility to society rather than their benefit to an individual. Although Nietzsche’s argument is logical, I believe his argument depends on two false premises and therefore do not accept his view of morality.

Nietzsche begins his argument in section 21 by arguing that the praise of virtues by society as a whole has always been “far from selfless and unegotistic” (92). He argues that the virtues that make up modern morality are harmful to individuals who embrace such virtues, yet they are praised by society because society benefits from them. For example, one praises industrious individuals even though “they harm their eyesight or the spontaneity of their spirit” (92) through their hard work because society...

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